Anxiety of Hope? Drinking from the “Fire Hose” of Cancer News

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Carol Preston interviewing myeloma expert Dr. Tom Martin

Patient Power Host Carol Preston interviewing myeloma expert Dr. Tom Martin at ASCO 2014.

Carol Preston interviewing myeloma expert Dr. Tom Martin

Patient Power Host Carol Preston interviewing myeloma expert Dr. Tom Martin at ASCO 2014.

This is prime season for cancer news reporting. As I write this, we have a Patient Power team in Chicago at the annual meeting of ASCO, the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Media outlets from around the globe are there and so are patient advocates, because it is what I like to call the “world series” of cancer. Tens of thousands of doctors and researchers from around the world attend to present their data or to hear reports from others. And, of course, all the drug companies are busy bees there, too.

We are producing 20 in-depth video reports from ASCO, and you can find news reports all over the web. In about 10 days we’ll be at it again—in Europe—at the European Hematology Association (EHA) meeting in Milan. I’ll be there. Since Patient Power focuses on several blood cancers—I have two of them, CLL and myelofibrosis—this is yet another important meeting for us. We’ll shoot interviews in multiple languages.

But all this brings up a question for the individual patient. How closely should you monitor all this? And if you do pay close attention, does it cause you anxiety or give you hope?

To help guide me, I go back 30 years to a conversation I had with a television producer named Oscar Welch. He was a smart man and worked at the Miami affiliate of a television show where I was a national producer. I asked Oscar how he picked the topics for the television segments he chose to produce. His answer: “We pick topics where the information is significant for our audience.” It’s safe to say, even in the infotainment business where Oscar and I found ourselves, Oscar was not into “fluff.”

Now let’s fast forward to cancer “news.” Use Oscar’s filter. We do. Is what’s being talked about significant for you? Is it actionable now? Could it potentially lead to a promising, better treatment or even a cure.

There is so much in cancer “news” that washes out, disproven. And a lot more that is never proven at all, despite a lot of hype.

Huge public relations firms are at work at ASCO and EHA to push out “news.” Sometimes they are right, and it is a big deal. But often it is only a ripple in cancer research that is soon bypassed or forgotten.

Although Patient Power continues to attend medical conferences to help put emerging treatment and research in perspective for you, we are developing more content beyond just what’s new. You need much more than that in your daily life. I know I do. So we are now producing more “living well” tips and general education about cancer types. We are also helping you better understand your disease. Look for much more, for example, with Dr. Susan Leclair, our hematology lab expert. And check out the series with Drs. Bueso and Verstovsek on bone marrow biopsies. Look for our videos with nurse practitioners on everything from sinus infections to GI upset.

We are committed to creating a library content that helps the patient as a “whole person.” (I am sure we’ll do a report on sex and cancer soon too!)  So, yes, we’ll bring you cancer news, but we’ll also give you much more. And, as always, we welcome your suggestions.

So don’t let the flood of news reports from the latest conventions make you crazy. Take a break from your computer and just go enjoy your day with people you love. That’s what life is really all about.

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